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Friday analysis - tyre management to prove paramount 23 Mar 2012

Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 23 March 2012 Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 23 March 2012 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR7.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 23 March 2012 Ferrari pit wall gantry.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 23 March 2012 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB8.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 23 March 2012 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus E20.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 23 March 2012 Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams FW34.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 23 March 2012 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Force India F1 VJM05.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 23 March 2012 Sergio Perez (MEX) Sauber C31.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 23 March 2012 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Caterham CT01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 23 March 2012 Charles Pic (FRA) Marussia F1 Team MR01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 23 March 2012 Pedro De La Rosa (ESP) HRT Formula One Team HRT F112.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 23 March 2012 Pirelli tyres.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Preparations, Sepang, Malaysia, Thursday, 22 March 2012

With the weather holding for both of Friday’s practice sessions in Malaysia, the principal focus was on tyre running to determine the degree of degradation on Pirelli’s medium and hard compounds. The message was clear to all: tyre management will be the key to a good race. We take a team-by-team look at day one in Kuala Lumpur…

McLaren
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 38.021, P1/1m 38.172s, P1
Jenson Button, 1m 39.323, P9/1m 38.535s, P3

Hamilton said he was happier with the balance than he had been in Melbourne and that he is working hard to maintain that for both qualifying and what promises to be a tough race. Button lost some valuable time in FP1 with an oil leak but said he ended the day with a good understanding of the tyres. The atmosphere here is one of great optimism.

Mercedes
Michael Schumacher, 1m 38.826s, P4/1m 38.533s, P2
Nico Rosberg, 1m 38.813s, P3/1m 38.696s, P4

Schumacher said that he was happy with the progress made since Australia, which resulted in “reasonably consistent long runs”. Rosberg echoed his sentiments, but team principal Ross Brawn admitted that they still need to solve some tyre degradation issues.

Toro Rosso
Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 40.469s, P18/1m 38.853s, P5
Jean-Eric Vergne, 1m 40.099s, P16/1m 39.297s, P8

No problems here, as both drivers completed their programmes and were happy with the STR07’s balance.

Ferrari
Fernando Alonso, 1m 39.980s, P15/1m 38.891s, P6
Felipe Massa, 1m 39.896s, P13/1m 40.271s, P16

Alonso and Massa went completely different ways with their set-ups, especially in FP2, when the Brazilian realised that his was not the right one. Alonso’s time looked good in FP2, but insiders at Ferrari expect to struggle come qualifying, as they did in Australia.

Red Bull
Mark Webber, 1m 39.092s, P6/1m 39.133s, P7
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 38.535s, P2/1m 39.402s, P10

Vettel reported a productive day but admitted that his RB8 was sliding around too much and lacked stability. Webber said he was happy to complete his intended programme.

Lotus
Romain Grosjean, 1m 38.919s, P5/1m 39.311s, P9
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 39.128s, P7/1m 39.696s, P15

Raikkonen evaluated a new steering rack set-up in both sessions, but had a problem with his KERS in FP2. Grosjean’s FP1 running was hampered by an incorrectly seated rear wheel nut initially, and he sustained a cut in a rear tyre in FP2. Overall, however, the mood is optimistic and this is the team that Button has tipped to spring a surprise here.

Williams
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 39.783s, P12/1m 39.444s, P11
Bruno Senna (pm only), 1m 40.678s, P17
Valtteri Bottas (am only), 1m 39.724s, P11

Williams reported a constructive day without any problems. Bottas in particular impressed as he became only the ninth Finn to drive in an official F1 practice session in FP1, when he was 11th fastest just ahead of Maldonado.

Force India
Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 39.440s, P10/1m 39.464s, P12
Paul di Resta, 1m 39.298s, P8/1m 39.625s, P13

Hulkenberg was optimistic after a productive day which gave the team plenty of data to analyse for tomorrow’s set-ups. Di Resta’s off-track problems were caused by a faulty brake disc, but he expects to be a top 10 contender tomorrow.

Sauber
Kamui Kobayashi, 1m 39.910s, P14/1m 39.687s, P14
Sergio Perez 1m 41.085s, P20/1m 40.947s, P18

Kobayashi lost time with a gearbox problem in FP2, when he felt the balance of his car had improved after a troublesome FP1, but Perez had an unhappy time in both sessions as he struggled with oversteer which made the car “undriveable”.

Caterham
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 40.247s, P17/1m 42.594s, P21
Vitaly Petrov, 1m 40.857s, P19/1m 41.464s, P19

Both drivers said that they struggled for grip, especially in FP1, but that they amassed sufficient data to help them determine the set-up direction to pursue for FP3 and qualifying.

Marussia
Timo Glock, 1m 43.170s, P21/1m 41.681s, P20
Charles Pic, 1m 44.580s, P22/1m 42.874s, P22

Glock praised the team for the amount of work they got done, which included evaluating a new floor, and for the progress they made. And he was delighted to end FP2 splitting the Caterhams. Pic was also pleased with the way his day went and the workload he got through.

HRT
Narain Karthikeyan, 1m 45.360s, P23 /1m 43.658s, P23
Pedro de la Rosa, 1m 45.528s, P24/1m 43.823s, P24

The team got a lot of mileage today, notwithstanding Karthikeyan’s hydraulic gearshift problem in FP1 which also afflicted him slightly in FP2. In that morning it was also able to try DRS for the first time. The cars were both oversteering badly, but they made progress on a generally productive day.

Pirelli
With track temperature peaking at 47 degrees Celsius, conditions were as tough on the tyres as Pirelli had expected. There was about 0.5s per lap between the two compounds and the hard rubber stood up well on long runs. There is plenty of data to be analysed, but early predictions are for a three-stop race on Sunday.

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